“The King’s Jubilee”

We marked our 25th anniversary in February for The King’s Jubilee. I wrote then about many of the ministries we have been involved in through the years. I think we are in need of a review as to the meaning of the name of this ministry, as it reveals its core purpose and direction. In the last couple of years, a few people have not understood this and it has led to conflict.

The first thing one should know is that it is “The King’s” Jubilee. We are not talking about King as in Martin Luther King. We are referring to The King of Kings, Jesus Christ. I have long said, that if I can’t do it in Jesus’ Name, I don’t have time to do it. Now the biblical concept of  doing something in someone’s name does not mean just saying the words. It means to act according to that person’s will. Nevertheless, to be sure to have the freedom to do this, we have never solicited nor will we ever accept government funding; nor do we solicit or accept any corporate or United Way funding that would require secularization of our services. Years ago a volunteer was pressured at his workplace for 100% participation in United Way. He designated $2,000 to The King’s Jubilee. We were told that if we so much as said a prayer of blessing or mentioned Jesus anywhere near anything we bought with the money, it would be a violation of their rules. We would have to keep separate accounts and have a completely secular program to use their money. I told them we could not comply with those ridiculous requirements. They never informed our volunteer of their decision not to forward the money according to his donor choice. I did.

On another note, it is the King’s because it is Christ’s love that compels us to serve. When I am asked by one of those we serve, why I keep coming after I have been mistreated by either some of the people or the police or the mayor, I say, “Jesus loves you. His love compels me to be here.” You see, I can’t always say that I love them. Now, after 25 years, I have grown to know and love some of them, but certainly not all of them. There are new faces each week, and my memory is not that strong, and I am not that holy. It would not be good news that I love them. Who am I? It is Good News that Jesus loves them. Of course, most of them are far better Christians than I am. The rest are better Muslims, or better Hindi, or better atheists, or better Buddhists. It is the King’s because this King lowered himself to become the servant of all. We go in a spirit of joy and a spirit of service. We endeavor to treat people with respect and dignity and kindness, the way we would like to be treated.

cropped-tkjprofile.jpgThis ministry did not just set out to serve homeless people on the streets. It is The King’s Jubilee. A major part of the Law of Moses had to do with the sabbath years and the year of jubilee, or sabbath of sabbaths, every 50 years. This was all about healing and second chances and radical redistribution of wealth. Every seventh year, all the slaves were to be freed for the year in order for them to be given a chance to earn enough to buy back their freedom. The land was given a rest to let it restore itself, as well. Every 50 years, all debts were cancelled; slaves were set free; the land was returned to its original owners or their heirs. This was not an optional or “freewill” plan. It was to be part of the government. If a man did not comply, he was to lose his inheritance completely and no longer be a citizen of Israel. However the Israelites never really kept these years. They were very important to God, however. So important, in fact, that God caused the nation to go into captivity for every one of these years they failed to keep.

You see, the Law of Moses was to be a model government for the nations of a direction toward mercy, toward economic equality, toward elimination of slavery. The year of jubilee was a type of the coming of the Lord. There are jubilary psalms that start with “Shout for joy” or “Lift a shout!” The jubilee year started with the sounding of the horn and a mighty shout from all the people. We hear this again in the culmination of the age in the Revelation to St. John in the sounding of the trumpets. It is a signal that God is finally making all things right. Justice is being meted out. Well, Jesus is the King. In his first public message, he referenced Isaiah 61 which is about “the acceptable year of the Lord.” It is a “jubilee song” speaking of the final jubilee to which all the 50 year jubilees pointed. He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He proclaimed Himself and his church to be that Jubilee. This is further confirmed by St. James’ understanding of the economic implications of the gospel. The Epistle of James was the first book to be written of the New Testament. It is mostly about the evils of economic inequality. “Go to ye rich, weep and howl …” “Where do wars come from? …” “judges with evil minds”, etc.  I have already posted James 5:1-8 without comment on Facebook and had two priests accuse me of being a communist for it. I told them their argument obviously is with St. James, not me, since I had not commented. St. James had the mind of Christ and the natural progression from the jubilary concepts of Moses.

So this ministry is called The King’s Jubilee because we are trying to get resources from where they are to where they need to be. When we started in 1989, Montgomery and Bucks counties were two of the wealthiest counties in the country and home to the per capita wealthiest evangelical denomination in the world, the Mennonites. We were Mennonite at the time. This area was wealthy due to one reason: white flight from Philadelphia. They had sold their farmland for subdivision and made a killing. There was a whole generation that were builders and tradesmen who earned enough off of this development to send their children through college. The next generation came back as professional people. Some of the developers had even larger businesses off of the new population. The grocery stores expanded, etc. At the same time, they cut their support for ministry in the city and closed some of their mission outreach in the areas where they had originally started in Philadelphia.

Hundreds of churches have closed in Philadelphia. Crack wiped out a generation of mothers. Prison took a generation of fathers. Grandmas were left to raise babies. Little store front churches were overwhelmed with the tasks set before them. Meanwhile new churches were being built in the suburbs and people were building bigger McMansions and praising the Lord in comfortable, bigger, air conditioned barns , nicely forgetting the bad old days in Philadelphia. They wanted to help the poor people in their “own” neighborhoods. Problem is, they intentionally moved away from all those poor folks in Phila. and have zoning laws so they don’t have to see them on a regular basis and highways and no mass transit out here, so they can’t reach us. The suburban soup kitchen has to turn volunteers away. The suburban food bank is staffed by paid help, it is so well funded. Meanwhile, the city is starving.

So, we are The King’s Jubilee. We don’t just want to see food move from the suburbs to the city. We want to see money move to the people in need. We want to see people be personally involved in helping to rebuild neighborhoods for the current residents. We want to see land reform. We want to see people given a second chance. We want to see an end to convicts losing their right to vote. The war on drugs has been a race war by Nixon’s own taped admission. When people have paid their debt to society, the slate should be wiped clean. I learned that from my GOP dad around the dinner table. Imagine that! Stakeholders in a society make better citizens. We want to end homelessness. It is possible. Don’t you dare quote me: “The poor you have with you always.” Do you see the word homeless in there anywhere? I didn’t think so. Homelessness is a stupid shame and is a symptom of our greed and hardheartedness. It actually costs us more as a society to keep these people out on the street than if we would just give them some of the excess apartments that are sitting vacant, no strings attached. Four cities and one state have tried it and have found this to be the case, so I am going to say it again, louder. It actually costs us more as a society to keep these people out on the street than if we would just give them some of the excess apartments that are sitting vacant, no strings attached.

So another aspect of The King’s Jubilee’s ministry as was just demonstrated is the prophetic, both to Christians and to the powers that be, to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. It’s all wrapped up in the idea of sounding the trumpet or lifting the shout of liberation a la Isaiah 61.

I have been at this for more than 25 years. It has been a life lived in poverty. I have basically worked two jobs the whole time. Only for two brief periods did I have the luxury of pastors who understood and appreciated me and were glad to have me in their congregations. Most pastors feel threatened by me. I have been called by some a fool for Christ, by others, just a fool. They do not understand this ministry. They prefer to do “ministry” where they can market the church and proselytize. The first time Metropolitan PHILIP, of blessed memory, met me, he did not let me reverence him. Instead he reverenced me, and pronounced a loud blessing upon me and upon this ministry. I was just a new catechumen at the time. I do not say this to boast. I do not understand these things. I was ordained to the priesthood as an infant by the Episcopalian bishop who baptized me. No one knows why. I was ordained four other times, none of which I asked for, once in a joint Mennonite Church/ General Conference Mennonite service with a Catholic priest, a Lutheran minister and a Pentecostal bishop joining the MC & GC overseers & pastors in the laying on of hands. We have been investigated on numerous occasions. At least three times during the Rendell years, undercover police tried to run sting operations on us. We have been harassed under three Mayors; threatened with fines and arrest and finally banned. We sued in federal court and won a restraining order to block that. I have been held at gunpoint twice. I have witnessed one shooting and two knifings. What a long strange trip it has been.

What I do know is that serving the poor and homeless is what I am meant to do. Doing it excellently, with care and skill, with attention to nutritional needs, social needs, psychological needs, financial needs, and spiritual needs, brings me joy. There is no better life. Won’t you please join me?